How to get a wild hummingbird to sit on your finger!
With a little time and patience, anyone with a steady hand can get a wild hummingbird to sit on their finger, as I did with this Calypte Anna. Here's how:
1. Set up a feeder at a height that is comfortable for you to hold your finger near. I emphasize "comfortable" because you may need to hold that position for ten minutes at a stretch. Place a chair close enough to the feeder so that you can hold a finger an inch and a half from it. This location should be in an area where people and pets won't appear unexpectedly.
2. Wait until a hummingbird has claimed this feeder as it's own. This may take as little as a few days to over a month depending on the number of hummingbirds in the area and the availability of feeders.
3. Once the feeder is in regular use, take a seat near it with your hands in your lap when the bird is most likely to eat. Hummingbirds feed heaviest and most often right after dawn, when they are making up for not eating all night, and at sunset, when they are storing up for the night, so either of those times would be the best. You may want to monitor your hummer's feeding schedule to discover when he or she makes the most visits to the feeder. Usually, the heavy-feeding period lasts half an hour and occurs consistently at the same time. You can almost set your watch to it if the weather is constant. (A cloudy day will throw off the hummer's timing.) Once you are in position, DON'T MOVE! Think like a rock. Even avoid blinking or moving your eyes. The hummer will typically fly up, spot you, and zip away. Don't worry. If your feeder is the one he's used to he'll be back in a minute or two. When he returns, pretend to be a rock again. He or she will make a few darting approaches, fly off, and buzz around. It wants to feed but is upset about the sudden appearance of something that, relative to his size, is as large as a 100-story building is to you. The key at this time is holding absolutely still. The bird may even fly right up into your face for a close look. Freeze! Don't move! Not even an eyelid! If he caught you with your hand scratching an ear, hold that pose until he leaves. Remain rock-like for the entire feeding period. Eventually, the bird will figure you aren't a threat and take a few tentative sips from the feeder. As time goes by and nothing threatening happens, the bird will get used to you and feed for normal periods. Hummingbirds are quick learners and he will soon ignore you almost completely, if you remain rock still. If he spots movement, you're back to square one until he thinks it's safe.
4. Repeat this step at least four times over a two day period. (Be sure to wear the same outer clothing each time so the bird knows it's the same person.) By the end of that time the bird will have learned that you are not a threat.
5. The next time you sit for a feeding, hold your finger about a foot from the feeder. The goal at this time is to get him used to a change in your position. Again, pretend you're a rock... with a finger extended near a hummingbird feeder.
6. The hummer may resume some his initial hesitancy about feeding, but if you've gotten him used to your presence it should only take a few minutes for him to accept the change. Once he's fed and flown off, move your finger two inches closer to the end of the feeder. Repeat this process after each feeding until you're an inch and a half away from the feeder. The bird may feed several times while hovering over your finger but should eventually settle down and perch on it.
I can't emphasize enough that patience and steadiness are essential to make this work. Also, if the bird never perches on your finger, it may be that that particular bird doesn't like to perch while eating (unusual) or has a skittish personality. Hang in there and eventually you should be able to win him over.
Is it worth it? Yes. There is something magical about a free, wild animal accepting and trusting you, especially one as unique as a hummingbird.
A very pleasant lady named Linda very kindly emailed me the folloing account of how a hummingbird came to site on her finger:
For two weeks we had a young juvenile hummer retrieved from the cat's mouth. He/she was in a cage near a feeder "owned" by a male Anna. Suddenly one morning the adult male "discovered" the bird in the cage and decided this baby was a trespasser and spent a great deal of time on the cage trying to get at him. That morning as I was repositioning the feeding tube, the adult male landed on my hand, using my hand as a perch to try to jab the baby. Shortly thereafter when I had the cage door open, the male flew in and immediately attacked the baby. I shooed him off and then had to grab him to get him out of the cage. This was so traumatizing and humiliating for him, it took him three days to come anywhere near his feeder, and he is the shyest of all hummers in our yard now, though he still defends his feeder. Luckily we have many hummingbird friendly flowers in the yard.
Baby was released soon thereafter. We now have one hummer in the yard that is particularly tolerant of our presence; still too young to tell if it's male or female.
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